05/22/2006, 00.00
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Iran: the only country in the world to execute minors

by Dariush Mirzai

Although it has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids the practice, Tehran continues to put minors to death. Last year, between six and eight were killed and in 2006, there may already have been two victims.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – The only country in the world to condemn minors to death on a regular basis and to proceed with such executions is Iran. On 12 May last, in Khorramabad, a 17-year-old youth and a 20-year-old youth were put to death, both accused of serious crimes in which – or at least this is what the court ruled – they were accomplices. The imminent execution of another minor is also feared, in Ispahan, that is, if it hasn't already taken place. The victim is called Ne'mat. Practically nothing else is known…

Perhaps Ne'mat or the youth of Khorramabad will be the last to be legally executed by a State. But it would be more accurate to say 'illegally'. The Iranian parliament is slowly preparing a law which, it is said, clearly bans the death penalty for people who were minors at the time when crimes [they are accused of] are committed. The entry into force of this law will, in theory, not cause a legal revolution because Iran is already part of the 1994 Convention on the Rights of the Child. This UN Convention stipulates that minors of 18 years should be tried by specific laws that among other things, exclude the possibility of the death penalty.

But together with China and the United states, Iran is one state that pushes ahead with a large number of executions. Although current international law authorizes this penalty, there are universal rules that call for its limited use and for particular guarantees to avoid abuses. Iran has freely submitted itself to following these regulations but it does not apply them. The dismal justice system, using a discriminatory (against women and minorities) and often unclear criminal code, without proper monitoring, continues to impose the death penalty on many people, including minors, at times in a hurried and public manner.

Among arguments in favour of the death penalty, some cite the example presented by the punishment. But really, the Iranian justice system does not make statistics or lists of death penalties public. To discuss the phenomenon and to denounce the most scandalous cases, NGOs go by reports in local Iranian newspapers, even if these are incomplete and at times contradict each other. And it is hard not to think that, in fact, recourse to this penalty is rather a method of governing the country, playing on the passions of the crowd when executions are public and maintaining a climate of fear and of repression.

"Justice": Practically every single speech or writing by Ahmadinejad contains this word, much used by Iranian authorities. "Justice" with regard to nuclear programmes, the price of oil, the condemnation of imperialistic arrogance… But Iran is not a state of law and does not even apply international norms of justice and humanity, both those it helped to elaborate and those it freely decided to respect. Without getting into a fog of discussions about Islamic law and different schools of interpretation, it is enough to talk about the fate of Ne'mat. If the court that condemned him took the decision in ignorance of treaties signed by Iran, then the head of the judiciary, Shahroudi, would have the possibility – and the duty – to prevent the execution. And if Ayatollah Sharoudi does not do anything, then the Leader Khamenei, with whom supreme religious power rests, should assume this responsibility, given that he controls the three powers: legislative, executive and judicial.

In 2005, at least six, seven or eight minors, according to sources, were killed (il)legally by the Islamic Republic. In 2006, already one, perhaps two, have been killed. And according to different sources, it seems as if Ne'mat, the 17-year-old, did not even have access to a lawyer during the trial.
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Teheran halts executions and suspends hanging of minor accused of murder
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